Written by Alex Dryden

Review written by Robin Jarossi

RRP: £7.99
Released: 12th May 2011
Readers who watched news footage of 20,000 soldiers and massive intercontinental ballistic missiles being paraded through Moscow’s Red Square for the Victory Day Parade earlier this month, will find it hard to read Alex Dryden’s thriller without a chill down the spine.

He skilfully creates a narrative that is close enough to real events and political figures to invoke a disturbing take on contemporary Russia, recently branded a ‘mafia state’ in the Wikileaks diplomatic cables. Here we have cliques within cliques of the security services, all under the direction of Dryden’s evocation of Vladimir Putin, that are plotting to put right a historical wrong, as they see it, by destabilising and regaining control of Ukraine.

Thwarted by the Orange Revolution of 2004, their original attempt to subvert Ukraine, Putin’s nefarious forces are now back tightening their grip in The Blind Spy. For the purposes of the story, real events such as the 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovich (previously forced into opposition following the rigged 2004 election), is portrayed as Moscow finally getting its puppet candidate for Ukrainian president into office. Don’t believe it? Well, as The Blind Spy points out, Putin told George Bush in 2008, ‘Ukraine is not even a state.’ He described the country as a ‘gift’ from Russia.

Anyway, according to the novel’s conspiracy speculation, Yanukovich is a Trojan horse through which Moscow can unsettle its neighbour before swallowing it. So, Dryden’s familiar cast of characters – ex-KGB agent Anna Resnikov, American agent Logan Halloran, and Burt Miller, head of the Cougar Intelligence Agency, a private body almost as big and powerful as the official CIA – return to pick up leaked secret plans from dead letter drops in Ukraine and to decipher what is going on with a heavily armed merchant ship that may be carrying dangerous, illegal materials.

Most importantly, they are perplexed by the Blind Spy, a sightless Russian operative said to have astonishing psychic abilities (no doubt one of the purely fictional characters in the book). Is this dangerous opponent about to betray Moscow, or is he luring Anna and co into a disastrous trap?

Alex Dryden is apparently a pseudonym for a British journalist and expert in security affairs and the evolving Russian empire. His plot sprawls between the USA, the Crimea, London and other outposts, and he adeptly pulls all the strands of this thriller together in the closing sections. While the characters are thinly drawn, and comparisons of his novels with those of Le Carré and Deighton are pure disinformation, Dryden’s worldview is brutal and sobering, and his warning clear – beware the bear.

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